Robson, Sir Robert William
Bobby Robson, footballer turned football manager, was much loved for his personal warmth and the inspiration he gave to his teams at the club and international levels. He was born in 1933, in the village of Sacriston, County Durham, and raised in nearby Langley Park where his father Philip was a miner at the local pit. Philip and wife Lilian raised Bobby in a small two-bedroomed home together with his five brothers and sisters.
Bobby left school at 15 and became an apprentice electrician at the Langley Park colliery. He was already known as a talented footballer who quickly attracted the attention of professional teams while starring for his local club. He signed for Fulham FC aged 17 and went on to make 583 senior appearances as a creative midfielder for Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, scoring 133 goals, and playing 20 times for England.
As a manager, Bobby displayed outstanding strategic and tactical skills, which when combined with strong communication and interpersonal skills, proved a recipe for success. Among the 11 commandments for motivating players, written by Bobby as an aide memoir for himself, he included ‘set good examples’, ‘understand people’ and ‘be trustworthy’. His players responded well and invariably worked hard for him. After brief spells with Vancouver Royals and Fulham, he was appointed as manager of Ipswich Town in 1969. He stayed for 13 years, taking the team to 4th place in the old First Division (Premiership) in 1972, winning the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981. He was appointed England manager in 1982. In his eight years in charge, the England team reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1986 and the semi-finals in 1990, losing on penalties to West Germany. Back in club football, he won two league titles with PSV Eindhoven in 1991 and 1992, won a league and cup double with Sporting Lisbon in 1995 and, in 1996, won three trophies in a single season with FC Barcelona. He was voted European Football Manager in the year in 1997.
The last significant chapter of Bobby’s illustrious football career was written at Newcastle United. Between 1999 and 2004 he took Newcastle from the brink of relegation to finishing in third place in the Premiership in 2003, earning the love and admiration of the fans. The honours now came thick and fast. He received a knighthood in 2002 for his services to football, was entered into the England Hall of Fame in 2003 for his contribution to the national game and, in 2005, was made a Freeman of the City of Newcastle, which he described as the proudest moment of his life. In 2007, the BBC recognised his many triumphs through a Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual Sports Personality of the Year celebration.
As a philanthropist, Sir Bobby will forever be remembered for his contribution to the fight against cancer. He was diagnosed for the first time in 1992 and then, in 1995, was found to have malignant melanoma. He had a tumour removed from his lungs in May 2006 and just months later, had an operation to remove a brain tumour, which left him partly paralysed. The end of his personal battle was signalled in 2007 when he was diagnosed as suffering from cancer for the fifth time.
Instead of retreating from public life, Bobby decided to use his experience to help others. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was established in 2008 and, one year later in 2009, after raising £1.6 million, he opened the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care. For the final 18 months of his life, Sir Bobby worked tirelessly to raise funds for the centre. In 2018, the Foundation celebrated its 10th year and is continuing to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds each year into cancer research. Lady Elsie, Sir Bobby’s wife, continues to support the Foundation which, in its first decade, invested £12 million in cutting-edge projects.
Sir Bobby died in July 2009. Newcastle FC commissioned a statue in his honour, unveiled in May 2012, which stands proudly outside the main entrance to its famous stadium, St James’ Park.
Lady Elsie Robson. (2018). Bobby’s 11 Commandments of Motivating Players, Available here (Accessed: 19/07/2018).
Polden, J. (2018). Gary Lineker fights back tears watching the late Bobby Robson reflect on Englands Italia 90 defeat by Germany, Available here (Accessed: 19/07/2018).
Vamplew, Wray (2013) Robson, Sir Robert William [Bobby] (1933-2009) Available here (Accessed: 19/07/2018).
Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. (2018). Bobby’s Story, Available here (Accessed: 19/07/2018).
Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. (2018). 10th Annual Report, Available here (Accessed: 19/07/2018).
Wearmouth, R. (2014). Sir Bobby Robson: From coal miner's son to Knight of the Realm, Available here (Accessed: 05/09/2018).